As we all know, the world is looking a lot different than it did two weeks ago. While we practice social distancing, I am hoping these blogs can bring a small sense of normalcy and consistency. If you are struggling to workout without a gym during this quarantine, this blog will feature some great advice and links at the end! Now, to the blog...
I am lucky to have known Shawn for the past four years. She has played a big role in my development as a golfer, athlete, professional, and person. Shawn has played golf competitively for most of her life, has been a coach, and has spent her career becoming one of the best golf fitness trainers in the country. She constantly pushes herself, both physically and mentally, and is someone that leads by example.
Here is her story:
What is you current career?
I call myself a sports performance coach. 2002 would have been my first job, so just about 18 years I've been in fitness, but probably 12 years focusing just on golf specific training.
When did you first get introduced to golf?
Five years old. My dad joined Sahalee Country Club and threw me in junior golf camps. He told me that it would pay for my education and keep the boys away, so that was his plan.
Shawn went on to play golf at Eastern Washington University where she majored in exercise science, although she originally wanted to be a music major.
But to be a music major, you had to be in a band, which was during golf practice, so that wasn't going to work. And the only other thing I loved as much as music was fitness. I think I kind of knew I would end up with golf just because that was all I knew. But I also think just because I played golf competitively, I think golfers gravitate towards me so it kind of didn't really matter what type of fitness I was going to do, I was going to end up working with golfers no matter what I did.
Describe your journey in golf to where you are now.
I came home after college for the summer, started working, and still attempted to play in some local tournaments and I won a pretty big tournament over the summer, but that was when all my back pain showed up. Slowly, it kind of took a different route because of that and I kind of got thrown into working, but I started playing around with the idea of playing professionally but it was a good reality check. I was not anywhere near the level I needed to be at and on top of that, I had too many injuries.
So, I kind of had to hang it all up for a bit and I just kind of played for fun. I kept playing in small tournaments through Sahalee. I played just randomly until I was 25. But then I pretty much just stopped and then I met my husband, who is the one that got me playing again because he fixed my back and my shoulder and pushed me to actually get back out and start swinging again. I started playing all the local stuff again and then somehow that turned into playing in USGA events. That was kind of cool because it was like I resurrected my golf career a little bit.
I'm on a brief golf hiatus right now, although there's currently hope for me to make a comeback. But yeah, it's been almost a year and a half away from competitive golf right now and it's probably the best decision I ever made for my own mental health that needed to happen.
At what point did you know you wanted to go into golf specific training?
I think I knew right away in 2004 right out of college. My first two years were in private training gyms and so most of the clients that were in there were a lot of CEOs of companies and most of them all played golf. The second they heard I played golf, they all wanted to train with me. I kind of looked at it like, "If this is what I'm going to do for the rest of my life, it sure better be something that I'm passionate about."
I am passionate about fitness, like it is my favorite thing on earth. There's nothing I love more than challenging myself and my body and pushing myself to the limits; that's my passion. And so I think that's where having it go in the golf direction allowed golf to still be a part of my life even during that time when I was in so much pain and I couldn't play anymore. So, it was like I still got the best of both worlds, like, "Let's be able to talk golf all day long while doing fitness," which is what I really love.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It's hard to say because I'm really hard on myself and I don't really like to take credit for anyone's accomplishments or anything that happens in here because I just feel like my job as a fitness coach is to facilitate someone else's success. And I'm just here to support them, push them, and be here for them.
But probably the most rewarding thing that happens is especially around Christmas time, I tend to get cards from the parents of the kids I work with. And over the years I've received some really thoughtful and amazing messages from parents. Juniors are such a big part of what I do and I forget about the impact sometimes that a coach or a person can have on the kids until all of the sudden, you get this letter in the mail from a parent saying,"Thank you so much for what you're doing with my kid and helping them and supporting them." It's nice to get that kind of validation that I'm putting all this time and energy and passion into everything I do in here.
What challenges do you face in the industry?
The biggest daily challenge, which is not even career related but is more personal related, is that I have really had to rein it in on managing my time, more so because I do have pretty major anxiety issues and I am very introverted and I did not understand how to manage those things probably until the last year or so. So that's been the biggest challenge, especially because I have to be incredibly extroverted when I work with people and I'm not that way. So it's really hard because I feel like I have to pull out this other part of my personality in order to actually do my job and it's really draining.
I also don't like to say no to people, so I have a tendency to stack appointments one after another after another and all of the sudden, I've trained 10 people in a row and I'm about ready to lose my mind. I have to really work diligently on blocking out small segments during the day so I can actually recharge or leave the clinic and take some time. But sometimes the most challenging thing is just, you know, we're in here and we've got someone in front of us and they're in pain, and they've got a tournament in two weeks and they're coming to us to figure out how they're going to play in that tournament. Or you've got a junior golfer who has to play in a tournament because there's college coaches there and we have to be able to help them out and instill some confidence back into them.
So, it can be a little stressful on that side of it sometimes because you feel the pressure to want to help them and you can't help everybody, so it's tough. It can be really hard to separate the job from the personal life sometimes.
How does the golf and fitness industry benefit from having women in leadership positions?
Golf and fitness are both pretty male-dominated industries, and I think that's the challenge. I was actually just talking to a client about this because we were talking about the fact that I'm going to go out and help my husband this week and there are no women that travel on the PGA Tour doing fitness or medical. And she was asking me why I thought that was and I was just telling her that it's a really tough environment out there. To me, I don't really care what someone's gender is. I look at their ability to help someone whether they're male or female, that's all that really matters.
But I think the fitness industry has always been male-dominated to an extent. And when I first came into it, I was the only female employee at the gym I worked at. In fact, both of the first two gyms I worked at, other than the front desk person, I was the only female employee. And it was really challenging, you know, because it's just different. It's different energy. In general, I don't know if it just prevents women from trying to push themselves to get further up in the industry or what the deal is, but I do think about that all the time.
It's a weird world where there are so many skilled women in golf and fitness, and I don't really know why we're not necessarily out there in the forefront or maybe we are and we're just not being heard. I know that's something that I've worked really hard on the last year is that it's challenging for me to go give speeches to put my name out there or to go post up on Instagram where I'm speaking, I can't stand it. But I am trying to make an effort to go and actually put it out there because I've gotten to the point where I don't like seeing things being put out there that I don't feel are helpful to golfers or to the fitness world. The problem is, if I don't post it, it never gets out there. So, I can either sit back and be a spectator and be mad about it, or I can actually start sharing information that I feel is valuable and helpful.
Do you ever feel like your experience differs from that of a man in the same position?
In my particular position, I feel like what makes me more unique is the fact that I actually did play competitive golf. That's the deciding factor. It's not necessarily whether I was male or female, because actually the interesting thing in the golf fitness world is that it's more common that you're going to encounter a golf fitness professional who actually doesn't play golf.
But at the end of the day, if you're good at what you do, it shouldn't matter whether you're male or female. You just step in there, you do your job, you do it well, and if you do it well, they'll keep bringing you back.
I will say, I played golf a couple weeks ago in Hawaii, and I can't fault the guy for this, but I didn't have golf clubs with me. So, I need golf clubs and the guy yells up to someone else and says, "Hey, can you bring out a women's set?" And I looked at him and I said, "No, no, no. I need a men's regular set," and he kind of did a double take and I thought, "Okay, are we ever going to reach a time in this life where someone says, 'What clubs would you prefer to play?' versus making the assumption that because I'm a woman, I want women's clubs?"
What are your future aspirations in the industry?
I have little things personally that I'm trying to work on. I'm trying to get myself to where I can actually start presenting on the things that I'm passionate about. I pushed myself last year to do a few presentations that made me very uncomfortable. I did one with the First Tee on long-term athlete development and got the opportunity to speak to coaches about introversion and coaching introverts, and that's something that I'm really, really passionate about. Introversion and anxiety are my two big things I've been working on for myself and I want to be able to continue having those conversations. So, I'm trying to get to that place in my life where I'm going to get more comfortable acknowledging that I am an expert in my industry and that I do have something to share and provide to those that are just starting out in the industry.
I don't tend to look five to 10 years out and think what I want to do, I tend to just try to stay in the present as much as I possibly can. I feel like if I start trying to look too far out, I lose sight of what I'm actually trying to do here in my own facility, which is trying to coach everybody every single day as best as I can.
What advice do you have for women going into this industry?
Spend an enormous amount of time figuring out who you are before you get ahead of yourself. I think the fitness industry, especially the golf fitness industry, can be very intimidating to get into and you feel pressure to have to do everything and say yes to everything. And I feel like people need to spend more time understanding who they are and what they stand for, to just be more authentic to themselves right out of the gate and figure out things like, what are your needs? What are you willing to compromise on? What's important to you?
Shawn has had to transition to entirely virtual workouts over the past week. While it's been stressful, the Golfletica community has remained strong. I had the pleasure of participating in a workout before they launch their full schedule this week and it was an awesome experience to connect with others who are thousands of miles away from me. Somehow, Shawn is still just as motivational 3,000 miles away as she is in person, which demonstrates her passion and commitment to her clients.
During these unprecedented, uncertain, and scary times, I asked Shawn for advice for people who are struggling to stay active while in quarantine/shelter-in-place. Here's what she said:
"Get out and walk as much as possible. It’s one of the most therapeutic exercises out there and a great chance to listen to some awesome podcasts. Remember that workouts don’t need to be complicated to work, even if you just pick four exercises, do 10 reps of each and complete four sets, that will get the job done. It’s important to remember that it’s not all or nothing, it’s all or something! That, and drink tons of water."
The Golfhers blogs will continue to be posted and provide you with some inspirational reading while we all practice social distancing. Do you have some advice for the Golfhers community during this time? Send a DM on Instagram to @golf.hers or leave a comment on the website!
You can also follow Shawn on Instagram (@fitnesscaddie) and Golfletica (@golfletica). If you are looking for some training during this time, she is a great resource, so reach out! Shawn also posts great workouts and exercises that can be done anywhere, so give her a follow.